Here’s a link to an Interesting article about “information overload” and its evil twin, “organization underload” (which, I gather, is about not being organized enough to manage all the information – a key line in my litany of self-criticism over the years).
Information overload has always been a pet concern of mine. My outrage at the injustice of being expected to cope with a ridiculous load of email and other information burdens has always battled with my secret fear that I’m just less sharp, less disciplined, less organized than others who cope with it sans complaint. Given that another soapbox of mine is the cultural crisis of sleep deprivation, I worry sometimes that I just come off sounding “old”.
Am I just a middle-aged woman who needs more time to process than others and lots of naps? On better days I tell myself I’m a prophet warning the Western world of looming danger from our distracted, exhausted ways. Allow me to ramble a little bit more in an unfocused, distracted way….
I looked up the research that first author mentions, comparing “infomania”‘s impact on IQ with marijuana smoking, and found that the “infomania” researcher, Dr. Glenn Wilson, had to post a disclaimer on his website because the media misrepresented his study. His findings were never actually published and were the result of an experiment conducted with just 8 people.
Here’s a paper on multi-tasking, which makes my case for me. By the way, it references the marijuana comparison as cited by the BBC – which is part of the media misrepresentation problem mentioned above. So, take that part with a grain of salt, but consider the other points made, including:
“multitasking (is described as) a ‘mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.'”
“research has also found that multitasking contributes to the release of stress hormones and adrenaline, which can cause long-term health problems if not controlled, and contributes to the loss of short-term memory”
“One study by researchers at the University of California at Irvine monitored interruptions among office workers; they found that workers took an average of twenty-five minutes to recover from interruptions such as phone calls or answering e-mail and return to their original task.”
I’m glad I finally gave myself permission not to multi-task. Sometimes I need to temporarily, but I can always do better if I focus. When my 4 year old daughter recently told me that she wanted to read a book while watching a video, I said “no” more emphatically than she expected me to.
I wonder what lessons of hindsight we’ll be hearing from people who have grown up multi-tasking and weathering information overload as a way of life. Will they laugh at us old fogies who thought it was so bad, or will they have suffered such negative effects of it that they forbid their own children to walk and chew gum at the same time?